Maryland coach Mark Turgeon certainly won’t be drawn into a debate about the strengths and weaknesses of his last two teams in College Park. That’s not to say others – particularly fans and the media – haven’t had these type of arguments during the last few months.
Tale of the Tape
Overall record: 27-9
Regular season record: 24-7
Big Ten record: 12-6 (Tied for third, three games behind regular season champion Indiana)
Highlight: Reaching Sweet 16 (first time for Maryland since 2003)
Overall record: TBD
Regular season record: 24-7
Big Ten record: 12-6 (Tied for second, two games behind regular season champion Purdue)
Highlight: Winning their first five games on the road
Low point: Losing at home to Iowa on the day the school’s two Final Four teams were honored
Going into the season, there were some who thought this was the most talented starting lineup for a Maryland team since the Terps won the national championship.
Offensively, it was best shooting team overall (48.6 percent from the field) since the 1998-99 season and the top free-throw shooting team (76.9 percent) since stats started being kept during the 1950-51 season.
The strength was certainly in its inside game, with the ability of freshman center Diamond Stone, junior forward Robert Carter Jr. and senior forward Jake Layman to use their size to create mismatches.
Until sophomore point guard Melo Trimble was injured in early January, he and graduate transfer Rasheed Sulaimon seemed to complement each other well, with each willing to play both facilitator and finisher.
The on-court chemistry of this year’s team has been fun to watch, especially compared to last season. It helps that all three freshman starters are willing to play complementary roles and that Trimble trusts them to make the right play.
The contribution of the bench, and Turgeon’s reliance on it, could become a major part of the team’s postseason. When the Terps play well, it’s usually because reserves such as junior guard Jaylen Brantley and redshirt sophomore forward Ivan Bender have played well.
There have been a few issues down the stretch, but for a young team, Maryland closes games well, especially on the road. Being able to win Saturday’s game against Michigan State after struggling to score late could be a big boost for the Terps.
The preseason injury to then-sophomore Dion Wiley compromised the three-guard rotation Mark Turgeon was planning to use, and limited the offensive firepower off the bench the whole season, especially after Stone was moved into the starting lineup.
The lack of interior defense was an issue when Stone and Carter were paired together. Though both were very skilled offensively, neither played with the same effort on the defensive end.
Perhaps the biggest issue was the fact that at least four of the starters thought, at one time or other, they should have been “The Man.” The one exception might have been Layman, who was often hesitant to shoot until late in the season.
Free-throw shooting has been an issue at times this season, and the Terps have to improve on their accuracy (70.1 percent). That could be a problem in the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments if it doesn’t improve.
The Terps have rebounded better of late, but still need to do a better job, particularly on the offensive boards. They have been outrebounded on the offensive boards in the last three games, and Michigan State’s Nick Ward got nine Saturday.
The season-ending injury to center Michal Cekovsky has left Turgeon with only two alternatives behind senior Damonte Dodd -- redshirt sophomore Ivan Bender and senior L.G. Gill. Both are undersized when player center and could be overmatched by a bigger, stronger team in the NCAA tournament.